There’s nothing like going out with your girls: twerking, two stepping, hip swinging, waist winding, all while singing loud and off key to all your favorite songs makes for a truly magical evening. So, on this particular night, I was excited to hit the city of L.A. with my favorite dance partners. We decide to explore the busy streets of Santa Monica, and so far, our night was off to a great start–we didn’t have to pay to park and there was no cover charge, which is not always easy to find in Los Angeles. We stepped into one of the many bars/clubs on the block that was recommended to us and were surprised to hear some hip-hop music playing. The bars in Santa Monica are mostly inhabited by young white people, so typically there’s a lot of house and pop music. So upon entering this particular bar, we knew that this place was probably our best bet and decided to stay.
There we were, dancing our lives away on a crowded dance floor, enjoying every minute of it. We had made friends with another group of black folks from out of town, and one of my girlfriends ended up dancing with one of the guys we met. My friend and this guy — we’ll just call him Dante — had taken a break from dancing and were talking, while I was standing by the wall next to them. Dante motions me over, so I walk to him. He leans in to my ear and says, “Hey, go talk to my friend over there; he’s kinda awkward. He told me he was feeling you, so you should go talk to him.” I felt like Dante was just trying to get rid of me so that he could be completely alone with my friend. I was getting ready to tell Dante that I was just chilling and probably wouldn’t go over to talk at that moment, but before I could say anything, Dante continued, “Yea, my sister told me that I should dance with you, but, no dis to you, but I like light-skin girls”. My stomach dropped. My friend and I gave Dante a serious side eye like, WFT??!!
Now, comments like this are not new to me. I’ve heard some black men say how they “prefer light-skin” girls and, normally, I just shrug off their ignorance and keep it pushing. But for some reason his comment was the final straw and I broke. I walked away from them and sat at the far end of the bar trying my hardest to hold back tears. I was really hurt. The build up of these types of comments had finally taken its toll, yet I was embarrassed that his words had affected me to the extent that they did.
I was hurt by the fact that it is 2017, and the Black community is still dealing with colorism. The fact that we, as Black people, have yet to appreciate and truly see the beauty of all the hues we come in is extremely frustrating, and the fact that some Black people are completely clueless to the effects of slavery and social conditioning on their romantic “preferences” is enraging. I was hurt because for the first time I really felt unattractive and unwanted. I was unwanted by a black man whose skin was just as brown as mine. It is beyond bewildering. I felt like I had been transported to another world where everyone was asleep except for me. There I was operating amongst zombies who had no idea they weren’t “woke”.
My question is, why did he feel the need to say anything at all?! He didn’t have to continue his spiel. If that is the mindset you carry, then there is no need to say it aloud and reveal your foolishness to the public. He literally told me that the reason he didn’t dance with me was because my skin was too dark. Why the f*%k would you actually let those words come out of your mouth?! Did I mention that his beloved sister was just as dark as me? I’m sure that he thinks his sister is beautiful, but you mean to tell me that he wouldn’t date someone who had the same skin tone as his sister?!! I just don’t get it! How could he not see that there was something seriously wrong with his comment
I was done. Exhausted. Defeated. And at that moment the only thing I wanted to do was go home, lay down, and cry.
Luckily Dante’s friend, Eric, came and sat next to me and started talking to me. Even though a part of me wanted to be left alone, I greatly appreciated him being there, if only to preoccupy my mind with idle chit-chat and to prevent the tears from dropping onto my cocktail napkin. Eric was not like Dante and expressed a great appreciation for all things black. Thank you, Eric. You saved me at that moment with your conversation and you had no idea.
We stayed until the bar closed and then made our trek back home. I didn’t speak a word of what I was feeling to my friends. I wanted to keep the evening fun and light and I thought that I could move past the experience. However, the next morning when I woke up, I still felt the emotional weight of the previous night and I surrendered to that feeling and cried. I told my girlfriends how I felt and they expressed their empathy and said that Dante was an asshole. They allowed me to break and they used their loving words to piece me back together. Thank you to my girlfriends, my squad, my sistas … you know who you are.
I spoke to my mother as well, she is always there to remind me of who and whose I am. She was sad that I had to experience the same ignorance she had to endure during her younger years, but she reminded me that there are men out there who see and appreciate my blackness. She said, “Now Beth, if you are woke and can see the beauty in our people, then you have to know that you are not the only one. You have to know that there are other black people — black men — who feel like you do, who see the beauty, your beauty. You have to know this!”
My mother was right, deep down I did know. I know that there are black people out there, black men in particular, who are awake — who see the beauty within the spectrum. I know that there are men out there who would not dismiss me because I have dark skin, but who would be ready and more than willing to embrace me. Thank you, mom, for building me up and for reminding me that there is nothing wrong with me — for reminding me that I am beautiful. Thank you for straightening my spine and helping me to stand tall and proud in my black skin. Thank you for reminding me, that as I stand, I’m helping others to stand too.